Next governor must sustain Virginia’s energy supply

Next governor must sustain Virginia’s energy supply
File Photo

(File Photo)

To the editor:

Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial election is likely to be one of the most important in the past decade.

The commonwealth has been named one of the top five states in which to do business for the past five years. In fact, our business-friendly climate helped the state’s GDP reach a record $445 million last year. While many factors contribute to this success, none are more important than Virginia’s balanced energy policies.

These policies are the result of electing pragmatic leaders eager to pursue energy development of all types. Indeed, this leadership has enabled Virginia to move toward an “all of the above” approach that serves as a model for the nation.

According to the Energy Information Administration, nearly 40 percent of the state’s electricity is provided by nuclear energy and 34 percent is generated using natural gas. At the same time, energy from renewable sources has doubled in recent years and provides 5 percent of Virginia’s electricity supply. Add it all up and nearly 80 percent of the commonwealth’s electricity comes from low, or zero, emission sources.

The remainder of the state’s electricity is provided by coal. This industry is not only of great importance — last year it fueled $2.9 billion in economic activity and 10,637 jobs — but also helps keep our energy costs low while providing the stability needed for continued economic growth.

This is a critical point when considering that the commonwealth’s electricity use is expected to grow by 1.5 percent each year. At this rate, Virginia will need to expand its energy supply by 14.6 percent to meet expected demand through 2020. While the state’s renewable energy portfolio target will help, coal will continue being an important part.

However, if out-of-state, antidevelopment activists have their way, Virginia’s energy pragmatism — and continued economic growth — could be at risk. In fact, Californian billionaire and activist Tom Steyer recently announced he intends to pump millions of dollars into the state’s gubernatorial election to “send a national message about the power of climate-oriented politics.”

Regardless of this, Virginians already know that the state is an energy leader. This is evident by the state’s diversity in electricity production, its renewable electricity objectives and the fact that, in 2010, the commonwealth’s vehicle fleet was ranked eighth for the portion of alternative-fueled vehicles in use.

For this reason, Consumer Energy Alliance was proud to host the 2013 Virginia Energy and Opportunity Forum: A Discussion with Virginia’s Gubernatorial Candidates. The forum — held at George Mason’s School of Law — let state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D) engage with energy consumers in a wide-ranging discussion about Virginia’s energy future.

With the importance of ensuring access to affordable, reliable electricity — and Virginia’s opportunities for offshore oil, natural gas and renewable energy development — it is critical that we hear from both candidates about their energy platforms and policies. This election, and the development and implementation of policies that ensure access to affordable and reliable energy, will be key to continuing Virginia’s economic success.

Now, more than ever, we need to move forward with pragmatic energy policies that support energy innovation and economic growth. After all, whether you’re a manufacturer in Virginia Beach or a stay-at-home parent in Charlottesville, energy has a huge impact on your everyday life and the state’s continued growth.

– Adam Waldeck
Executive director of the Southeast Energy Alliance, a regional chapter of the Consumer Energy Alliance